Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Globe Editorial Sides with Pedestrians


Hey driver, check your privilege

Any unnecessary, violent death should always be deeply disturbing. But one category of death gets far less attention than it deserves – to the point where it has been largely normalized as the acceptable by-product of our busy, mobile society.

The killing of pedestrians is an overlooked tragedy in a car-centred culture that prefers to regard road deaths as both accidental and inevitable.

They are neither – at least not if you’re determined to make our cities safe places where people can go for a walk without fear of sudden death or disability.

In Toronto, 41 pedestrians have already been killed this year. That’s only slightly below the homicide rate. And while auto fatalities have been steadily declining, as carmakers build safer vehicles, seatbelt use becomes commonplace and police crack down on drunk drivers, pedestrian deaths appear to be increasing.

Blame-the-victim types will say that distracted pedestrians are the agents of their own misfortune – the image of the ear-budded millennial staring down at a phone while blindly stepping into traffic is often trotted out. But according to a long-term analysis of the data, of the 23,240 pedestrian deaths in the U.S. between 2010 and 2014, portable electronic devices were a factor in only 25 cases.

There are other kinds of distraction, to be sure, and occasions when pedestrians make fatally bad decisions. But more often it’s the driver who is responsible for the death or injury of a pedestrian, whether through the deliberate distractions of technology, inattention, or the kind of misconduct that is accepted by frustrated drivers in a hurry – speeding, running a red light, failing to come to a stop when turning onto a busy street or blowing through a crosswalk.

And then there are the “accidents” that are the logical consequences of moving more than a ton of metal at speed, even for drivers obeying speed limits. Modern North American cities and suburbs were designed to serve cars and drivers, getting them from point A to B as quickly as possible. A certain amount of death is a predictable byproduct.

It is time to undo this destructive choice – by dropping speed limits, narrowing roads, extending curbs at crossings, and providing safety islands on broad, busy streets. Politicians must find the courage to resist the crude war-on-the-car arguments that will inevitably result. Pedestrians already have priority under the law. It is time they had it in reality.

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My comment: As much of a speed advantage drivers have, how much more often do they “rush” vs. pedestrians?

Hearth, er, Home is where the Heart is


This essay in today’s Globe and Mail (A Facts and Arguments contribution on page L6) gets nicely at the point of this blog: hearth is the intersection of heart and earth, the place on this globe we feel most attached to.

And, below that one is another, this time from the Toronto Star (p. A10, an editorial) that makes the same point from a slightly different perspective.

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  • 13 Jul 2016
  • The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition)

Your idea of a teardown is my idea of a home

In this hot real estate market, I’ve finally figured out what to say to agents urging us to sell, Catherine Mulroney writes

In an overheated real estate market, diplomacy is the first thing to go.

We received yet another “Dear Homeowner” letter the other day, penned by an agent working with “several developers” who are anxious to acquire multiple properties in our neighbourhood.

In a tone at once chipper and vaguely menacing, the agent suggested that should we choose not to sell as a group, we could lose out financially, the walls of real estate progress casting increasingly long shadows upon us.

The letter arrived on a bad day. Its suggestion that our house was ready for the scrap heap immediately confirmed my deep-seated fear, repeated to my husband more frequently than he would like, that the tear a squirrel had made in one of our upper-window screens had cast me in the world’s eyes as a modern-day Miss Havisham. A featured role in Hoarders: Buried Alive seemed just around the corner.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that an agent seeking a six-figure commission couldn’t be bothered to discover our names or that multiple developers are breathing down our necks waiting to pounce on our little slice of midtown. After all, the city where my husband and I live has changed dramatically since we became engaged.

The two apartments he lived in as a bachelor are long gone. The cozy triplex that was our first place together is slated for redevelopment, while our first house, a bungalow that would have been a perfect place to retire, was ripped down recently and replaced by what one relative labels a “starter mansion.” There’s nowhere in the city where we can take our kids, point and say, “We lived there!”

We’ve watched the styles of new buildings change over the years, from the stucco southern Gothic of the late 1990s to today’s Fallingwater-meets-mallsteak house. The architectural profile of our neighbourhood has gone from modest postwar homes to a quilt of different façades, the only thematic link being the move toward more house and less green space.

I suppose I’m naive to think sentiment has any place in the world of real estate. I should have learned that the day I sat in a meeting at City Hall and witnessed a developer who was seeking to radically change a neighbouring street wave his elegantly cufflinked hand and inform panel members that the existing housing stock simply wasn’t “family-friendly.”

Since that day, I’ve composed many a response in my head to him, and to anyone who appears at my front door backed by a backhoe. Here’s what I’d like to say: The neighbourhood you deem disposable is the spot where we raised our children, so I know a thing or two about family-friendly.

We moved in here as parents of two and watched our family grow to six. As our family expanded, so did the house, with an addition suitable for everything from Lego-building to science fair preparations. Sometimes, late at night, the ghosts of birthday parties past echo through the space.

It’s a house filled with the memory of visits from those who are now gone, including my parents and a beloved sister-in-law. The dining room has seen many a celebration – baptisms, birthdays, graduations – as well as mourning. It’s where we sat shiva for my father-in-law, the table dotted with offerings of food and flowers from people who were then brand new neighbours but have long since become friends.

On the wall is a sampler completed by a great-grandmother in 1930 and a stone carving that hung in my parents’ front hall for decades.

It’s a house where kindergarten playdates shifted in the blink of an eye to graduation formal dates, where in no time we went from bringing home new babies to seeing kids head off to university.

The backyard includes flowers from the house where I grew up, as well as contributions from neighbours. It’s a horticultural map of my life.

Sure, the kitchen is looking a little … well-loved, and if I told you our bedroom wallpaper is Laura Ashley you’d agree it’s time for a change. Did I plan to do more decorating? Sure, but in the interim, guess what? Life happened.

We may not have a great room, as per the latest trend, but each and every room in our place is, frankly, pretty good. I confess we don’t have more bathrooms than residents, but – as one neighbour known for her practical parenting approach asks – if a child never has to negotiate with siblings over shower access, how’s he going to get along with the rest of the world when he grows up?

Apparently, the place where I’ve built a life is nothing more than a teardown to you. While we’ve never met, I suspect you and I would disagree on matters of taste. Perhaps you’d say I have none. But, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is. Some days, of course, it’s more a case of home being the place where “when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” as Robert Frost wrote.

Most days, though, what goes through my head when I cross my threshold is the old song: It’s “a very, very, very fine house,” right down to the two cats in the yard. And, in case you’re asking, it’s not for sale. (Catherine Mulroney lives in Toronto. Submissions: We want your personal stories. See the guidelines on our website

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  • 13 Jul 2016
  • Toronto Star

Take back the streets

 Long before helicopter parenting and liability-averse city councillors and bureaucrats, there was a special sound to summer. It was the laughter, cheers and whoops of delight from kids as they played ball hockey and basketball on neighbourhood roads until the street lights came on and their parents summoned them home from nearby front porches or balconies.

Now, with street hockey and basketball banned by the City of Toronto, the roadways are practically empty of all but motorized vehicles. Children have fewer opportunities to meet other kids in the neighbourhood and play the games that used to enthrall them for hours on end.

Where they once happily played outside their own homes, they now must be driven to organized activities where they interact with kids — who likely live nowhere near them — for an hour or two. Or they can always stay inside on a gorgeous summer day and watch TV or stare at a computer screen.

There’s a chance this could all change for the better this week if Toronto’s city council has the courage to say “yes” to letting kids play on local streets and “no” to a recommendation from the city’s transportation services department that it uphold the municipal code rule that bans street hockey and basketball.

What’s more, city councillors who favour allowing road play on local streets with speed limits of 40 km/h or less, including Christin Carmichael Greb and Josh Matlow, have a new ally: Ontario’s children and youth services minister, Michael Coteau. He is rightly urging city council to lift the road-sports ban.

Coteau points to the obvious health benefits of play as well as the relationships kids build and the sense of belonging they acquire by spending more time playing in their own neighbourhoods. They gain “an understanding of social rules, relationship building, learning how to compromise with others, patience and perseverance, teamwork and a sense of belonging.”

Informal street play has other benefits, the minister notes: it can “strengthen community bonds, bring parents together and put more ‘eyes on the street.’ ” It can also reduce speeding and reckless driving on side streets.

As a provincial minister, Coteau has no formal voice in what city council does. But he has done a service by pointing out the obvious. It’s high time kids and families were allowed to take back their neighbourhood streets. City council should vote to allow them to do so.

Jane Jacobs’ Two Moral Syndromes: Understanding Trump & the Presidency


This will be very short.  It is the one-page appendix to Jane’s fourth book, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce & Politics (1992).  That title suggests some insight to Donald Trump’s campaign to become U.S. President, specifically his background as a businessman and his attempt to success as president, the ultimate guardian.  To Jane, these represent the two moral syndromes that dominate political life and are essentially mutually exclusive:

[page 215]

THE COMMERCIAL MORAL SYNDROME [which she dubbed “traders”]

Shun force;

Come to voluntary agreements;

Be honest;

Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens;

Respect contracts;

Use initiative and enterprise;

Be open to inventiveness and novelty;

Be efficient;

Promote comfort and convenience;

Dissent for the sake of the task;

Invest for productive purposes;

Be industrious;

Be thrifty;

Be optimistic.


Shun trading;

Exert prowess;

Be obedient and disciplined;

Adhere to tradition;

Respect hierarchy;

Be loyal;

Take vengeance;

Deceive for the sake of the task;

Make rich use of leisure;

Be ostentatious;

Dispense largesse;

Be exclusive;

Show fortitude;

Be fatalistic;

Treasure honor.


Complementarity: That’s the Key Principle for Siting New Central Library


Note on Process: I attended yesterday’s earlier session to help the Library Board and its consultants to find the best location for the new Central Library.  It was very participatory, but I forget to mention something, something that, during the summarizing session at the end, was raised by no one else.  I will do so now . . . Here, because in using the OPL website I could not find the way to register it there (and, had I found it, I would probably have been offered too little space.

What evokes this is the writing of Jane Jacobs.  She is mostly known for her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961).  But I didn’t read that first; I read Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984).  (In between she wrote The Economy of Cities, 1969, which I still haven’t read, despite owning a copy.)

Yesterday, while reading the many essays proffered by those who knew and loved her on the occasion of her 100th birthday, I came across one by Lawrence Solomon, founder of Energy Probe Research Foundation in Toronto, and someone who has come to be a bit of a contrarian.  [His foundation published a great study in the 1980s, Why Ontarians Walk; Why Ontarians Don’t Walk More, that I found so useful in forming Ottawalk.]  He pointed out that Jane was a member of the board of this institution – and of a spin off, the Consumer Policy Institute, for two decades.  He also emphasized that she has been used by many “Lefties” to justify city favouring high-rises, which is not a position she took.

He explained that she used the involvement with his foundation and institute to articulate her economic ideas about the proper role of government, which in Death she had excoriated so much, especially for its role in creating the terrible form of public housing and for demolishing whole viable communities that were labelled “slums.”  I am certain that this involvement formed the basis of her fourth book, almost never quoted, Systems of Survival (1992), a Socratic dialogue that explored two states of mind, traders (the commercial mindset) and guardians (those who seek control of a different nature, through monopolies).   She suggested that mankind needed both, but had to learn how to divvy our responsibilities so as to not get a mess.

That brings me around to the quality of place of my title: complementarity.  Soon after I retired in 1996, I read Death for the first time.  I saw in it the powerful idea of complementarity in land uses and human activity that both books described.  I also read “Holly” Whyte’s City: Rediscovering the Center (1989) and Christopher Alexander’s, A New Theory of Urban Design (1987).  All clearly describe the power (synergy) of similar-but-not-alike businesses located near each other has on the growth of each of them.

These writers had grown up in an urban world organized by complementarity, but now beginning to yield to rule by land-use zoning.  They found it a tool that could help and harm at the same time.  Zoning is based on being able to enjoy one’s property without being affected by another, different land use next door, or at least nearby, whose noises, or smells, or vibrations, or visitors, or outdoor storage would be objectionable by you or your guests.  It was at this time that roads, too, began to be categorized as having a role that could be differentiated, usually by volume, but also by type of vehicle.  But roads were public, not private, and the City didn’t want to subject itself to its own rules, a clear problem visited in Systems of Survival.

In the end, land-use zoning and street-hierarchies were controlled in the name of making the middle-class residence a sacred place where the owner could invest his money and not be, later, beset with bad impacts, emanating either from an adjacent property or from the roadway in front (the latter has been tackled in older -pre-zoning, pre-automobile parts of town through “traffic calming” and, more recently, “tactical urbanism”).  That usually also meant that housing should not sit above commercial uses, something Jane cherished, after she realized about the value of such shops to the normal activities of living.

As I suggested in my “walkability” essay in Beyond the Car (1995, on this site), not having shops nearby meant having to buy provisions less frequently and therefore in greater quantity, turning one’s home into a warehouse, and why houses with high Walkscores are more valuable, but also more likely are smaller.

She also, along with Whyte, understood that the travel to and from nearby stores – as well as one’s nearby jobsite – was made by walking and thus made for not just good social ties, but also important creative and commercial liaisons that often developed into to great collaborations or companies that produced that products or services that would replace those imported from further away, growing the local economy and reducing travel by people and transport by large vehicles (“import replacement” is as important a Jacobs’s concept as “eyes on the street”.)

Whereas zoning and road classification emphasized compatibility, the real rules of cities, the one that traders respond to and depend on, was complementarity: did adjacent uses mutually support each other, not just not conflict with them?  “Location, Location, Location” means to a suburbanite being far from negative land uses, while to the true urbanite, it means being close to positive ones.  The much maligned threats of city centres — fire, disease, vermin, crime — either no longer exist or, with wise application of complementarity, can be greatly diminished.

The suburbs have been built to provide families the safety they need to rear the ‘younguns’ in a  “nest” of safety and nurturing.  Zoning was invented by the guardians to sell the virtues of the suburbs that lacked so much complementarity, but could ensure that disease, crime, fire, and poor people could, in fact, be barred forever – or so they promised.  The downtown areas of cities were deemed hopeless at offering these, except for upper-class enclaves that too often sought and received separate town or village status and could shut out the same forces from their tiny kingdom.  A good example of the problem of compatibility is the newer suburb, whose homes are built at pretty much the same time and whose buyers are mostly young families: parents have to drive quite a distance to older neighbourhoods towards the city centre to find babysitters.  Compatibility too easily morphs into conformity.

Suburbs have required the invention of new forms of living (big setbacks from the street, garages dominating the streetfront) and formalized the system of movement (the private car) between them and the unique and less-than-copasetic downtown that has – or had –  the unique destinations that tend to congregate there, including entertainment, industry, culture, etc. (how did Canadian Tire Place — and its ever changing names — get located far away in the west end — a decision that is finally being reversed) also became “prisons” for the young adults and older adults, both groups that have grown in their share of the population as those periods of one’s life have increased in years, now lasting longer, in total, than the child-rearing years.  This is just being discovered now.

So, when we site the new library, a unique institution best provided by the guardians in the city’s central area, we need to find out what trips to and from the current library – albeit it being too small and somewhat outdated, compared to other city’s libraries – are going to and from.  What other land uses depend on the library being close by to survive?  (For instance, last night, I recounted the many years I used my lunch hour to walk from my workplace at Bank & Queen to spend a very pleasant 45 minutes browsing at the Central Library – so having many workplaces nearby is important.)  That will require a study, not a public meeting with 100 people, none of whom came up with this very important principle, even a week after 50 local Jane’s Walks were conducted (two of them by me).


City Committee Weaves Through Road Obstacles to Overturn Taxi Monopoly


The deed is done.  The City hired a consultant to find a way through the mess that Uber created when it brought its travelling road show to the city just over a year ago, and the solution it proposed pretty much provided the road map the City was looking for.  A few amendments from members of the Community & Protective Services Committee gave it a bit of polish.

I waded in by making a 5-minute presentation at the hearing, and by meeting beforehand with the chair of the committee and the policy guy for Uber Canada, Chris Schaefer, both meetings being the result of an email in which I offered, as a retired carsharing company owner in Ottawa, to help.  I probably played a small role.

What I wanted to point out was that the City and cab company regime that limited the number of plates and set the fares that could be charged at all time, was finally exposed to be the dinosaur it really is, primarily because it cannot provide for peak demand at certain times of the day or for special events.  There was simply no way to get additional taxis on the road to accommodate this demand.

The other problems arose from that monopoly:
1) drivers were mainly new immigrants who were much more willing than native drivers to work long shifts, 2) the drivers had an air of entitlement that interfered with good customer service (not helped by clunking dispatcher services/apps, and 3) the industry was slow – and highly resistant – to adopting measures that would make their service better, especially to give customers a better idea when the cab would arrive, and a way to make comments short of a formal complaint.

I commented on my experience starting Vrtucar, and how City staff were hard to convince how different carsharing was from car-rental when it came to both zoning (we had no need to park our cars at our office) and parking permits (we did not qualify as a resident, but 90% of uses were by nearby residents.  I also made the point that the City did not try to protect the car-rental industry from our “disruptive” challenge.  But I made the point that we avoided the insurance issue because we did not provide a driver, just as ridesharing also did not.  I then pointed out that Uber is using “ridesharing” erroneously, because they provide both car and driver, and their rates reflect their need to recover both costs, whereas a rideshare arrangement recovers only car costs, fixed and variable, as a rate no higher than what an employee charges an employer for driving for “business.”

Although I didn’t mention other terminology matters in my formal comments, I did in talking to others:

1) the use of “private transportation company” for the new category is confusing, since the providers of the taxi service are also private companies; the KPMG term, “transportation network company,” the one used in other cities that have come up with virtually the same solution, is far better.  “Livery,” the term used in New York City (referring to today’s horse-drawn predecessors), is a better term.

2) “Safety” was again and again the word used to justify the taxi drivers’ demand that the Uber cars have cameras recording the participants inside the car; the word that should have been used is “security.”  (Safety refers to accidents; security to intentional acts, such as assault and robbery).

3) Another term used for both categories is “vehicle-hire.”  Sorry, but that misses the driver’s role, and inadvertently includes carsharing and car-rental.

4) “Surge pricing,” another term used by Uber to describe how its rates change with demand, should instead adopt the term used for variable parking rates by cities, including Ottawa, “dynamic pricing”, which better reflects that rates will not only rise when demand is high, but also decline when demand is low (or supply high). [See Donald Shoup, 2005, The High Cost of Free Parking]

My most unique message was probably my comments about how much more transportation will be “networked” in the future, and how change will continue to be demanded by the public offered evolving new products:

1) I am working on a “hybrid” of (true) ridesharing and carsharing that will bring both services to the suburbs via two-station cars that will need to be moved between suburban residential areas (evenings and weekends) and suburban employment centres (weekdays) by regular rideshare routes.  It will give residents part-time car-ownership to replace a second car, and the same to employees who have arrived at work by means other than a personal car (ending their car-free status during work hours).

2) A new app for car-owners to allow them to pick up others going their way to personal and business destinations, a kind of high tech “hitchhiking” which is also true ridesharing.   Uber should be looking over its should for this one.

3) The new autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) that will arrive in about 5-10 years.  They will make “passengerhood” popular again, especially in the age of “connected” technologies that work against driving (especially “distracted” driving).  It should also be a godsend to older drivers needing to find an alternative to driving but without any loss of independence.  Ditto for the disabled.

I also pointed out that transportation is a system, and must be integrated.  However, the City separates it into several “silos.”  The day before, I appeared to present to Transportation Committee about “congestion pricing” for all private vehicles.  The previous week, the IT (Information Technology Subcommittee) was receiving a staff report on the “Smart City” which encompasses all use of technology to support “smart” transportation as well; FEDCO is responsible for parking revenue operations; Planning Committee is responsible for parking requirements; and Environment Committee would get involved in a project that I am working with Ecology Ottawa on: storm-water fees for paved areas on each taxpayer’s property, as well as the roofed area that is not captured by eaves troughs and rain barrels.  (For property owners no longer needing any off-street parking, the City should compensate them for freeing up car-parking spots.)  And along with this will come a need for lots of citizen participation; however, most citizen advisory committees have been abolished.  (But the City never figured out how to relate to them, anyway).

This fractured policy field works against the City being able to give these clear messages to citizens: 1) “The city will no longer consider access to its streets or car-drivers to be free.”  2) “Take less space or be ready to pay.”  3) “It would be good to plan ahead by arranging your work and live locations so that your daily commute is far shorter,” hopefully short enough to not even need to use transit so much, because we are going to change that too, pretty soon, to recognize true “private transportation companies” who will provide jitney-type services on low-volume streets and will be expected to charge by distance and time-of-day, removing the monthly pass honoured on every vehicle for good.  (UberHop, one such service, has already started in Toronto).

Overall, I think the committee and its chair are to be thanks and admired for a good job done under very challenging circumstances.  They stood up to unavoidable disappointment by the drivers, but realized that the game – its control of the service – was over; there was no reason to prolong it.  Uber, despite being a shameless opportunist who depends on part-timers with cars, has done everyone a favour.  It would be nice, though, to give the participants more than a week to digest the many relevant documents.

Yes, just as I jumped into this fray on this issue close to my heart, I am willing to do the same in the future.

[The author is former owner of Vrtucar, current member and co-founder of the Older Drivers Committee at the Council on Aging of Ottawa, and members of Walk Ottawa and Citizens for Safe Cycling.  He wrote “The Walk-and-Roll City: A Vision for the City without Cars, Trucks, or Buses” in 1992, available on this site, as is the “hybrid” paper mentioned above.]

Making Do with Fewer Cars


Making Do With Fewer Cars: Using Metered Access to Shared Cars (MASC) to Avoid the Coming Global Car-Population Explosion as Developing Countries Strive to Emulate West’s Inefficient OPOCO (One-Person, One-Car Orientation), by Chris Bradshaw, 2014

“The problem that lies behind consideration for pedestrians, as it lies behind all other city traffic difficulties, is how to cut down absolute numbers of surface vehicles and enable those that remain to work harder and more efficiently.” [Jane Jacobs, 1961, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, p. 349]

I. Introduction:
This is an attempt to argue for a new approach to overcome the “car problem.”  It was written for the Club of Rome (through its Canadian affiliate, CACOR) since the Club’s iconic book, Limits to Growth (1972), included a rationale for limiting both consumption of resources and human population.  What it didn’t touch on is the link between people and the most significant consumer good: the automobile.   [This paper was the key essay for an edition of the club’s “journal,” which ceased publication before this issue was published.]

In a speech I made to CACOR in 2010, I related my experience as a carshare entrepreneur and advocate  proposing a new way to limit resource use without people doing without: limit access to certain items that are not accessed that much time – cars, tools, washing machines, and certain rooms (via co-housing) – through various forms of sharing.  Rather than the current regime in which private ownership is considered ‘natural’, society can adopt a new regime that would make those who value thrift giggle with excitement.  Since that talk, two books have been published on this theme: What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, and The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing, by Lisa Gansky .

Carsharing – along with taxis, car-rental, and ride-sharing – are referred to in this edition as MASC, Metered Access to Shared Cars.  MASC holds the promise of not just reducing the number of cars by 90% in a fully developed country or city that has already reached car-ownership saturation, but of reducing demand for housing along with the many consumer goods that are underutilized, tie up personal capital, and take up expensive space to store between uses.  I will explain in a second essay how the car delivers, literally, the entire lifestyle of excessive consumption.  The current regime of car-access, personally owned cars, is dubbed here as OPOCO, the one-person, one-car orientation.
Although both population and resource use have continued to grow exponentially in the 40 succeeding years (since Limits to Growth appeared), and although natural limits do not appear yet to have been reached, the issue is very much alive, particularly the growing alarm over levels of CO2 accumulating in the upper atmosphere, which is heating up the planet (presciently mentioned in Limits to Growth, p. 72).  Few people doubt that the world continues to move toward such limits.  The book did not give focused attention to the automobile, although it was referenced marginally in several sections.

This Journal issue focuses on how and why we should limit the number of cars on the planet, not just stopping or slowing down the rate of growth, but developing a new form of access so that each car can serve many more people, thanks to the unavoidable fact that privately owned cars are used only 1.5 hours a day (even though their owners have to labour for 2.5 hours to pay for this underused mobility resource).  In this scenario, excess cars from developed countries could either be recycled early, or shipped to developed countries to be used in collaborate ways.
The automobile is especially amenable to sharing thanks to: a) its high cost of acquisition and the high-ratio of on-going fixed costs (insurance, maintenance, home-base parking, depreciation, licensing) that cannot be reduced by driving less, b) its low utilization by its owner, and c) the fact that it is designed to be used solely in public spaces, and takes up public and semi-public space both when used and when not used (parked).  Just as roads are shared, it would make immanent sense to share the vehicles used on those roads, which is pretty much how freight moves.  Unlike all other consumer goods, the car is not used in space its owner provides; although it is marketed as a “personal” item, it cannot be carried like just another item in a pocket or bag.  In fact, much of the car’s mileage occurs when its owner transports it with him, so it is available in case he actually does need it.  Finally, it boils down to being a form of privatization of public space, space that is very costly for government to obtain, improve (so cars can by driven fast and in all climate conditions), and maintain, but which the car inefficiently uses, thanks to the user/owner not being charged for it.

II. Revisiting the Car’s Problems:

If one listened to the auto industry and upper levels of governmental environmental management agencies, one would think that the car’s problems are limited to just two, which have been explored at length and will not be elaborated further here:

1.    Pollution (including greenhouse gases, fuel leaks, Nox/VOCs, air-borne particulates, ozone, road-salt contamination, etc.) and

2.     Energy security (“peak oil” and sourcing from unstable regimes).  But there are another eight that aren’t addressed by improved fuel efficiency and better energy sources.  These eight, however, can be addressed only by reducing the number of vehicles in existence (on the road and parked, ready to put on the road):

3.    Road Congestion – Congestion occurs when the number of vehicles on a section of road exceed the design criteria, and each driver, faced with less space, has to lower his speed to that which conforms to the buffer space available directly ahead of him, to allow him to stop in time to avoid a collision.  Movement on crowded sidewalks show the same adjustment.  Any effort to reduce the number of cars in a city, partly by getting more travelers in each one would reduce congestion, but ironically, car-occupancy is actually higher during off-peak periods.  Some suggest that speed limits on urban roads are too high anyway, considering the risk to pedestrians and cyclists, and all the access movements from driveways and delivery vehicles.  The only alternative solution that the auto-industry and government consider for this problem is called IHS, or intelligent highway systems, a way to use computers and sensors to reduce the reaction time, and thus allow cars to follow each other closer at various speeds.  But these systems have been proposed only for limited-access highways, which incidentally ban pedestrians, cyclists, and offer no property access.

But more recently, Google, has started to develop the self-driving car, which it claims can safety navigate urban streets.  This, however, would actually make congestion worse, since it would allow car occupancy to be lower yet, making the zero-occupant car (ZOV) possible.

4.    Sprawl – This is the spreading out of land-uses over a larger area, and results in an increase of distance between destinations.  Some call this “distance pollution.”  It is essentially caused by the ease with the car covers distances.  Even when its top speed is no higher than transit, it has a higher average speed, thanks to fewer intervening stops and more direct routes.  But increasing a car’s occupancy at peak periods, a sensible idea, would reduce this advantage.

Sprawl does reduce intersections, but making blocks longer, but the resulting road pattern also makes travel distances longer than as-the-crow-flies distances, thanks to the “spaghetti” pattern of cul-de-sacs, crescents, and circles, meant to eliminate ‘cut-through’ traffic (partly by confusing those who don’t ‘belong.’)  Sprawl has another component: houses are set back more from the street, removing the ‘noise’ of pedestrian presence, allowing roadways to default to a role of machine mobility dominated by danger.  Building lots, to compensate for moving garages forward, get wider, and the streetscape is less intense and fewer people populate the pubic/semi-public street domain.  And walking to stores becomes very impractical ( rates all properties in North America for this), not just due to increased distances, but the lack of Jane Jacob’s ‘eyes’ and the traffic dangers incumbent in wider streets and faster traffic.

5.    Transportation Equity – This term is rarely heard.  We are all aware of equitable access to housing; but transportation is the second most expensive item in people’s budgets, but minimum incomes (low wages or welfare) are rarely sufficient for car-ownership.  Equity means all adults having pretty much similar access to mobility.  Although all people have access equality (thanks to disabilities legislation), many do not have mobility equality.  Access gets you into and out of properties, and if a trip links two adjacent properties, no mobility is needed, since mobility is just the “filler” between two access movements.  If the origin and destination are close, mobility is simple.  But the sprawl caused by automobile dependency (which extended the more mild sprawl first induced by transit) has turned the mobility distances into major challenges for the Poor, Elderly, Disabled, Children, Ill/Infirm, and Visitors, not to mention ‘Simplicists,’ who voluntarily eschew car ownership or use (I collectively use the term “PED-CIVS”).  These people are increasingly having to resort to alternatives that have deteriorated into inferior statuses: infrequent transit, expensive taxis and rider services, dangerous walking and cycling.  The best bet is often begging rides from parents, children, friends, and neighbours.  It should be no surprise that transit operators are more focused on meeting the demand of AAAs (active, affluent adults) for their commutes to work, which are much longer trips and require a quite different transit system: more rapid, faster, more frequent.  But it leaves PED-CIVS either as the responsibility of AAAs or with an inferior service that is more expensive (transit charges flat fares regardless of distance).  The use of these ‘alternatives’ requires dependence on safe, secure  public areas; but growing automobile use has made public places less safe.

6.    Health A – Trauma & Stress – The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2009 that 1.27 million people died in traffic collisions in the previous year.  What is more shocking is that half were “vulnerable” road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.  Since the number permanently maimed are usually 10 times this amount, and those are injured enough to be hospitalized another factor of 10 greater, the number of lives ‘touched’ by automobile (and truck) use is very large indeed.  Sadly, PED-CIVS are over-represented in these figures.  The safety improvements to vehicles doesn’t help this factor, although recently introduced measures in Europe – to require new models to have pedestrian-friendly front hoods to reduce the seriousness of injuries – is a very small step in the right direction (Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, 1966, gets credit for a ban on hood ornaments).  There are even devices being developed to “read” the road ahead for ‘objects’ entering the driver’s ‘path’ which will trigger the brakes autonomously.  But a layer on top of this hierarchy of risk-trauma hierarchy is the largest layer, those who have close calls or who have a fear of being hurt in  traffic situations.  Dr. Barry Wellar, of Ottawa University’s Geography department (emeritus) has done groundbreaking work on his “pedestrian security index” to reduce people’s feeling of being vulnerable to injury or death while walking.  Not only are PED-CIVS more likely to be injured – and afraid of being injured – and spend more time of travel exposed to these risks, but their qualities of lower height, poorer senses and coordination, less experience, and general brittleness mean that collisions will result in poorer outcomes.  Countering the fear of vulnerable road user to being injured or killed, is the stress of drivers fearing that they might either cause such injury, or be themselves victims if they collide with a larger vehicle.

7.    Health B – Obesity and Fitness – the automobile and powered transportation generally has deprived people of an important opportunity for physical exertion.  What machines have done to reduce harsh labour in the workplace, has also been done to remove the more benign exertion that comes with travel for those with good agility and stamina (ironically, mobile air-conditioning is available only for those travelers who are not exerting themselves).  More people today seeking exertion favour repetitive ‘exercise” and get it from a health club (which often must be driven to) or in their cocoon of a house, requiring yet another dedicated room, further expanding housing ‘needs’),  Children are especially eager to engage in physical activity (via play, an integral part of their learning process – see more below), but are barred by their nervous parents from both walking on their own (and even when under parental care are expected to ride strapped into a stroller) or even playing outdoors, due to fear not only of traffic mishaps, but a fear of “stranger-danger,” a byproduct of the decline not only of natural surveillance of “eyes,” but the ability of “perps” to travel beyond the places they would be recongized, both factors that car-dependency has helped introduce.  The result is an epidemic of obesity in people of all ages, and the concurrent onset of type-2 diabetes, a huge burden to health-care organizations and budgets.  These factors also increase the incidence of cardio-vascular diseases and weaken the body’s defenses against cancers and other diseases.  This connection is coming too late for the current crop of elderly, who are the first to have experienced car-dependency from early adulthood, and whose hearts, weight, and joints have conspired to deprive them of the ability to walk much. [cf. Frumkin, Howard, et al., Urban Sprawl and Public Health, 2004.  It also contains an item for #6: “Driving Stress”]

8.    Social Isolation – We are getting more isolated.  Even within the family, the fact that each adult has his own car means each adult travels alone, or only occasionally with children, and these ‘together times’ are not good for socializing, due to the driver’s need to pay attention to the road, and the confining nature of seating for the others, in close company with siblings who are too often rivalrous.  My 1995 essay, “Walkability” (in Zielinsky/ Laird, Beyond the Car) points as well to the increased space and amenities of what have come to be called “McMansions” as a social-isolation factor).  But for the disabled and elderly, who are more likely to be living alone, the sprawl of cities has made travel to valued friends and activities more important at the same time as making it more difficult.  And the degraded walking environment greatly reduces the informal sociability of mixing with strangers along the streets or bumping into old friends (and ‘catching up”) or  “triangulation” (see #10 below).

9.    Decline in Civic Engagement – Beyond the social aspects of informal encounters is the long-term effect of such social contacts have on openness to diversity of people and opinions that are necessary preconditions to democratic government, not to mention to the informal mechanisms of governance at the local community/neighbourhood and block scales.  Governments are institutions at a larger scale created to manage that which those in a particular geographical area share, from the streets and parks and larger civic buildings and institutions, to the rules of law, money supply, and language and culture at the larger scales.  The sustainability of government and community depends on acceptance of a common fate, of the value of diversity in needs and abilities, and of the fairness of taxes – all of which a walkable community imbues.  Automobiles have largely played a negative role, according to Robert Putnam, in his 2000 benchmark book, Bowling Alone.  “In round numbers, the evidence suggest that each ten minutes in daily commuting time cuts involvement in community affairs by 10 percent.  Although commuting time is not quite as powerful an influence on civic involvement as education, it is more important than almost any other demographic factor.  And time diary studies suggest that there is a similar strong negative effect of commuting time on informal social interaction.” (Italics, his) [p. 213].

10.    Local Economic Health – Jane Jacobs is known for her insights into what makes dense community vital and safe.  Less known are her writings about economics and the role of localities in their success.  In Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984), she shows how cities’ economies grow through “import replacement.”  This process of producing locally the items which are mostly imported, depends on connections between local business people and resources and labour markets.  Again and again she points to examples of the synergy of companies that were located not just in the same city, but the same district or neighbourhood.  Fellow New York City pro-walk writer/thinker William “Holly” Whyte, in the 1988, wrote City: Rediscovering the Center, in which he pointed out that many new  acquaintances result from a kind of ‘triangulation’: as we are talking to someone we already know, a person known to only one of us passes by, and is introduced, to the third.  Whyte contrasts those network-building opportunities to the confining environment of companies located in suburban locations.  He studied businesses that relocated to the NYC suburbs in the 1970s during the city’s financial woes and found that they fared poorer financially in the subsequent decade than those which stayed [p. 294-295].  Other links are found in John Roberts’ essay (in Tolley’s book, The Greening of Urban Transportation: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Western Cities (1990): “There is now a wealth of evidence to show that pedestrianization, unless it is mis-designed or mislocated, benefits retail turnover.”   “Another indication of the success of pedestrianization is that rents for stores tend to increase greatly.  And employment either increases or at least doesn’t decrease as much as the other areas of these cities.  Tourists are especially attracted to calmed and pedestrianized areas.”

These additional eight impacts clearly aren’t lessened when only the vehicle design is changed; even smaller vehicles make little difference with use of road or parking space, although they reduce impact to other parties in a collision (but at the cost of increased vulnerability for the owner and his passengers).  Such is the nature of managing shared spaces and using standardized dimensions.  But the most popular advance in motive power today, the electric/gasoline hybrid, actually makes the car heavier, since there are two engines, plus a considerable number of batteries (even the newer plug-in hybrids can’t avoid this downside – unless range is curtailed significantly).  Cars still are under the control of a driver with minimal training and only loose accountability to traffic authorities; they still shrink distances and exacerbate sprawl, they disenfranchise the poor (even more so, as the new technologies make the cars more expensive); they still remove exertion and informal social encounters, still limit children’s independent movement; and they still have the same impacts on social/political/ economic life locally.  And even the touted improvements that the technology is supposed to produce is diluted by what is called Jevon’s Paradox, the insight that when we reduce negative impacts, people tend to use the product more.  The extra miles that are driven by people owning more efficient, less polluting cars shows that this is happening (perhaps it is due to less “guilt per mile”).  It is time to look deeper at the way we use cars to find a way to address not only the other eight problems left untouched by the industry-government agenda, but to address the fear people have that someone wants to take away their car and the ‘rights’ that go with it.

Although Limits to Growth, did not focus on the car as a problematic central artifact of the world of exponential growth, it does propose questions that should be answered before any new technology is implemented.  What if the car were being introduced today, and these questions were being asked?:

1.    What will be the side-effects, both physical and social, if this development is introduced on a large scale?

2.    What social changes will be necessary before this development can be implemented properly, and how long will it take to achieve them?

3.    If the development is fully successful and removes some natural limit to growth, what limit will the growing system meet next?  Will society prefer its pressures to the ones this development is designed to remove? [p. 154-155]

Some of the prior discussion points to what we, in hindsight, now realize those ‘side-effects’ and ‘social changes’ have been.  Although the car is already “out the barn door,” it is not too late to reign it in, at least by reducing their numbers in built-up areas.  As an analogy: distracted driving is a safety concern that is belatedly being recognized; it is caused by many activities undertaken by people while they drive (smoking, eating, disciplining children, changing radio stations), but only a new activity – using a cell phone, and only a hand-held one – is being banned by law officials.

III.     How MASC Will Reduce the Downsides, While Improving Efficiency by a Factor of Ten

Metered Access to Shared Cars (MASC) is the only new car-access regime that will retain the car without the downsides that would otherwise come by greatly reducing its numbers.  It is important to keep our eye, first, on what utility the car actually provides in a transportation sense.  There are really only three of them: a) increased speed compared to the other modes (except high-speed rail on separate rights-of-way); b) increased cargo-carrying, specifically door-to-door and immediately, and c) the ability of the traveler to shut out various “elements” such as weather, other people, and street grime.

These are fine advantages, but they come with a cost, and not that many trips require them.  And when they are needed, only MASC can provide the right vehicle for each trip, while, at the same time, allowing the user to avoid paying high fixed costs when the vehicle is not being used (even the three variable costs – parking, roads tolls, and gasoline – are heavily subsided by non-users).  And because the traveler will pay for any use as a stand-alone cost, he is less likely to engage it unless alternatives, almost all of them costing less, have been eliminated.  As is argued in my other essay (#6), we don’t have the resources or the space to have cars also serve their “rewards” ends.

It is also important to be clear about the ways MASC will improve on OPOCO:

1.     Reduce parking space and vehicle downtime – Each car needs not just a place to sit at its owner’s home between trips, it needs access to a large number of shared spaces to sit in during the time the owner is doing his business.  And, if the car is used for commuting, it usually gets its own dedicated space for the work week.  All this adds up to estimates of 4-6 parking spaces needed for each vehicle in a city’s car ‘population.’  MASC reduces a car’s downtime by matching off-setting demands for driving, reducing the need for 80-90% of cars in any developed city’s population.  The massive number of freed-up parking spaces constitute an exciting opportunity to increase density and location-efficiency of all areas, plus to decrease heat-island effect of surface tarmac (which also diverts rain water from getting to the roots of trees).

2.     Reduce the size of the car that is used for any particular trip to the minimum – Under OPOCO, a car serves one person – or less often, one household – and as a result it is sized to be large enough for the small number of trips that make extreme demands (long family trips, off-road outings – some never undertaken, or which could be done using a rented vehicle) during the 4-5 years it is owned.  These capabilities take space, add weight, and have to be supported by suitable braking, suspension, and engine capacity.  This larger package, under OPOCO, has to be dragged around for every trip, a burden  MASC users don’t face.  Technically, if 90% of trips are to transport only one-to-two people and maybe a grocery bag or two, 90% of the shared fleet could be two-seater Smart cars.

3.     Greatly reduce congestion – One of the most visible outcomes of introducing MASC the dramatic reduction in car population.  Non-peak-hour road traffic will not be that much lighter, but it will not increase to congestion levels at peak period, as he smaller fleet will entail each car carrying more people, and walking and cycling will be favoured, as much for cost reasons as any others.  Some people will shift trips to non-peak periods or work from an alternate office at home or a special telework centre in the neighbourhood.  Cities won’t allow its car population to rise to a level that will cause congestion, perhaps through controls they will be delegated by senior levels of government.  Already, cities know that downtown areas have less car traffic per resident and business than those in the suburbs because of the shorter average length of trips (due to the streets’ grid pattern and location-efficiency) and the greater reliance on MASC modes, along with walking and cycling.

4.     Drivers will be held to a higher standard. – The fact that MASC cars will be owned by third party, a fleet owner (who is naturally concerned about efficiency) means they will also be concerned with the way they are driven. The use of automated enforcement techniques means that citations will go to – and be paid by – these vehicle providers.  They will not only pass these costs onto the people who are driving them (as recorded automatically on their tracking systems), but will question what such driving means to costs for damage to vehicles, anxiety to riders, insurance costs, poor road ‘rep,’ etc.  Ultimately, the owner will have the option of withdrawing a member’s driving privileges, but thanks to the flexibility of MASC, his membership will still be valid for getting him rides from other drivers.  The overall effect should be much better road safety, and a sure-fire way to ensure that drivers with access only to MASC vehicles can be effectively locked out of the driver’s seat (see #8 below).

5.     Design of vehicle will change to emphasize reliability, a wider range of capabilities (# of seats, cargo arrangements, speeds/collision protection.  As the MASC segment grows, manufacturers will start offering “share-ready” cars, such as they manufacture for police and taxi markets.  This will go well beyond installing the IT devices that sharing operators need.  The fleet buyers will also be less desirous of cars that put styling ahead of reliability, expecting high standards for durability of seat and mirror controls (since these are subject to adjustments between drivers, many times a day), and will want a more versatile interior to allow converting space to different seating and cargo arrangements (new models of “cargo” bikes have this versatility).  There will also be a new market for micro-cars.  It is expected that some streets will have much lower speed limits and impose an even lower speed on vehicles weighing more than, say, 500 pounds, in order to make streets safer and quieter.  This should reduce the size and capability of the cars used only on such streets (there are now NVs, neighbourhood vehicles, on the market for larger gated communities that contain destinations – Dan Sturges, one of our contributors, invented one such vehicle).

6.     Reduce the number of times cars are resorted to.  Thanks to MASC’s shifting of car costs from fixed to variable factors and reducing the “hyper-availability” of cars (by having them, not just outside the door, but sitting down the block or around the corner a couple blocks away), will make them less likely to be chosen for trips.  OPOCO’s high ratio of fixed costs is a clear incentive to use an owned car more, not less, part of getting value out of a “sunk” cost.  Also, OPOCO’s proximity means it gets the nod more than it should.  MASC also will dampen use by requiring more trip planning (although Daimler-Benz’s Car2Go service with Smart cars, like the newer forms of bike sharing, doesn’t require reservations).

7.    Peak-hour demand will be accommodated differently: rather than more vehicles on the road, there will be more seats filled in the smaller number of vehicles allowed on the road (in other words, there is no need to consider a road to be ‘full’ until the cars on that road are themselves ‘full’).   The resulting crowded travel arrangements will influence individuals to consider alternatives such as moving within walking/cycling distance of work, tele-commuting or work at neighbourhood rent-an-office franchise, or shift one’s hours.  The current assumption that a person can live anywhere in a metro area and commute to any job will disappear.

8.    A smaller percent of the traveling public would be able to drive, or would want to drive – Society has a problem of there being many drivers who should not be driving; many of these driver would agree, if they had a way to avoid it.  MASC provides the alternative, and indirectly signals the population to value riding over driving.  As any ‘connected’ (e.g., iPad-, iPhone-equipped) person will tell you, driving time is ‘unproductive.’ Under MASC, seats moving briskly along one’s route at a particular time will be more than a steering wheel connected to a range of duties and responsibilities.  Each vehicle will be charged road-using fees, higher during peak hours, and this will induce the shift, too.  Drivers agreeing to pick up passengers along his announced route might pay much less, or nothing for his own seat.  He is not a chauffeur, though, and he will not be asked to go off his route to provide door-to-door service.  With time, either a new category of driver’s license would be established by states and provinces for this new category of driver, or the current “general driver” category will be made harder to get and retain.  At least this new generation of urban driver will benefit from the elimination of congestion.

9.    Many Fewer Kilometres Driven to “Take My Car With Me.”  Under OPOCO, the only car a person can drive is the one he owns.  He makes a lot of effort to ensure it is near-at-hand.  But under MASC, the requirement to take a particular car around everywhere with you will be removed.  Today, residents and visitors of a growing number of cities can use any bike that is located at a Vélib (Paris) or Bixi (Montreal) stand.  They don’t have to plan for this occasion by bringing their bike (assuming they actually own one, and have it in the same city) with them when they leave home that morning.  Rather than plan for needing a car and taking it around with you, you can just get an ID card from a shared-car provider, so one can be picked up, whenever and wherever it is needed, (e.g., “Honey, can you pick up Janey from her violin lesson?”) Coupled with the increased ability to ‘catch a ride,’ I estimate that vehicle kilometres driven (vs. ridden) per person to drop by 90%.

10.    Less Clout for the Automobile Industry – with many fewer cars in a country’s or a city’s car population, expect the industry to have less clout when it comes to driving rules and planning decisions.  The recent U.S. recession resulted in government bail-outs (the Canadian government also participated) that were far tougher and less popular – than the bank bailouts, showing that the industry, greatly international in scope, already has less clout than just a few decades early.

MASC should be introduced “organically,’ without the heavy hand of government; otherwise, the public will feel resentment and resist – strongly (see my treatment of resentment in my other essay).  But fees for using vehicle on the road need to be put into place.  They should apply to all vehicles, regardless of their sharing status.  Why? Because, since the fees with be shared with other occupants, the effective load on shared-vehicles users will be lower.
This would motivate citizens to solve distance challenges, not by driving more, but with locational decisions: moving their home closer to jobs and other common destinations, or making different employment, recreational, and education choices.  This will also put pressure on companies to avoid locating in isolated or fringe areas.  Cars have both created sprawl and smugly offers the “solution”: a secure shell to protect drivers and passengers from the dangers of the road that spawl has increased.

The result is many fewer SOVs (single-occupant vehicles), and more commuting in cars sitting next to others.  This will be better than transit or ridesharing is today, since cars designed for sharing – thanks to future adaptations to this market demand – would have sliding plexiglass dividers between seats (there being no internal aisle) and wi-fi and a drop-down table, a feature airplanes and many trains and some intercity buses now have.
The MASC system would grow in stages.  One feature will be that the divisions between taxi, car-rental, ridesharing and carsharing would blur, probably in the direction of carsharing, the newest and most dynamic sector.

1.    Valet Carsharing – One option that could launch soon is a kind of hybrid of taxis and carsharing, which I call “valet carsharing” or others might call “U-drive taxis.”  A car would be brought to the user.  Once the user keyed into the keypad where the car would be left, the staff would turn over the keys and then use a means of conveyance – perhaps a foldup electric scooter, carried in the trunk – to the reach the next car to be delivered.  This service would be priced somewhere between carsharing and taxi.  It would show that door-to-door service comes at a premium (which could include longer waits), and make a walk to the nearest main street an inviting option.

2.    Hybrid of Ridesharing-Carsharing.  Ridesharing (also called car pooling), which now only serves long-distance commutes using private cars or company vans, could combine with carsharing to accommodate more flexibility in arrangements (using smart devices) and better accommodate variations in work schedules (e.g. late notice to extend the workday), vacation time for drivers, and even allow personal workday trips by the participants.  I have conceived of such an application: a system that assigns each shared car to two stations.  Each car is used for ridesharing between a suburban neighbourhood and suburban business park one way in the morning, and the return in the late afternoon, but outside these automatically-scheduled one-way trips, the car’s downtime is available for uses by individuals (e.g., business meeting, trip to a child’s school) or groups (noon-hour trip to a nearby shopping mall). The same goes for evenings and weekends in the suburban neighbourhood at the other end of the commute route (e.g., household errand, or weekend-long outing).  [Bradshaw, “Combining Ridesharing & Carsharing: A New ‘Hybrid’” Peace & Environment News, December 17, 2007]  This would represent a way to serve to both bring carsharing to suburbs, but for a kind of transit to provide suburb-to-suburb commutes.

3.    Peer-to-Peer Carsharing.  Another recently introduced form of carsharing that is being introduced into the market now ( and used to serve the less dense and land-use-segregated suburbs and exurbs is peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing.  These areas don’t get high enough use over a week to warrant dedicated cars.  Instead, owners of cars that are underutilized register them with carshare provider’s booking system.  And neighbours use them during the times the owner has offered them (which could vary day to day).  Those who use it are insured by the company, who collects the fees and split them with the car-owner based on a contract. These exist now, as described by Brook (next essay).

4.    “Trans-Seat”  In the longer run, it will be possible for individual users of carsharing to offer seats in the cars they drive to other members.  And this would make it possible to link these rides with transit, including allowing seats on transit to be reserved.  However, unlike transit’s if-you-see-it, you-can-ride-on-it approach, this system, which I have dubbed ‘trans-seat’ would use smart phones to query where an available seat is traveling, and then ‘signal’ it to stop along its route (rarely one’s front door, if one want’s a quick response), where the member would approach the designated seat-door, and wave his membership card (or phone) to unlock the door, and start the ‘meter’ for that seat.  The system could link several of these rides together for a longer trip, with wait times, in a mature applications, being much shorter – especially in low-density areas – than transit.   This application would require much investment into a phone-app that links the requestor’s GPS and that of the cars in the fleet.
Implications for Neighbourhoods:

Under MASC, neighbourhoods could take a serious step towards car-free streets.  Without the need for cars to be stored by a single user, and with lower pedestrian- (and PED-CIVS) friendly speed limits, there would be little need to provide for their use on residential streets, and they could be parked at a neighbourhood’s edge (or city edge).  Lower speeds translates into much lighter means of conveyance.  And for the short trips that predominate in neighbourhoods, climate control (like speed) is not important.  When things need to be carried to and from a MASC vehicle, either the vehicle itself can be driven slowly to the house from its “station,” or  some shared ‘dollies’ or carts capable of managing the load – gear, purchases, young children – can be provided by the neighbourhood.  (These are somewhat like the carts provided by grocery and big-box retailers; in older neighbourhoods, these carts often are used by shoppers to carry their stuff home, and then abandoned, causing the stores to arrange for their retrieval).  The option of driving inside a neighbourhood might be available only for cars with electronic “governors,” which can easily be added to any cars, now that they have so much electronics.

Implications for the Global Scale:

Turning our attention at this time to implementing MASC is very prescient.  Several populous countries are experiencing significant industrial-consumption expansion, with private automobile ownership at the top of the list of economic goals.  But most of these countries have recent histories of sharing and community-self reliance.  They should be more willing to adopt this short-cut to car-access if developed countries showed that they were moving in this direction as well; admitting that OPOCO is very flawed, given the need to greatly reduce resource consumption and sprawl.  Even though the transition to such industrial economies causes reductions in birth rates (as Limits to Growth so carefully explains), there is no assurance the increased footprint of eachcar-owning citizen (30 times that of person walking) in a hyper-consuming culture would not be more than the decline in population growth.  It also ignores the fact that China has had a one-child-per-couple population-control policy in place for several decades.  Surplus vehicles in developed countries could be imported for use as shared vehicles in developing countries.  Of course the freight costs would require that only newer models would qualify – leaving older cars to be ‘retired’ instead.

In summary, the measures that are usually put on the table by industry and government to deal with the automobile’s appetite for resources (metals and energy) are simply too limited, despite the choruses from the environmental popular literature supporting different specifics.  After several decades, there is little progress to show for them.  Only some form of  the alternative car-access I have outlined above will avoid these problems and produce the dramatic improvements in resource use that the large global-warming agenda demands.

= = = = = =

ANNEX A: A Sketch of How MASC Will Bring Cars into Congruence in a Functioning Whole

The heart of an access system will be the emerging information/communications technology that can track both cars and their seats (when and if the specific car is divided into these accessible units) along with whatever plans its customers might have entered into the booking system.  Smart phones and light-weight tablet computers have already become essential input and status-providing devices.  The quickness of these devices and the programs that link them will allow on-the-fly “hailing” of rides, much like we do now with taxis along highly trafficked streets in dense cities.  You should be able to book rides as you enter a commitment or deadline in one’s digital agenda.  The MASC system – perhaps serving several MASC-vehicle providers – will respond with several ride or car options, from which the requestor will choose.  Even the private-vehicle owner can tap into it, useful to check traffic conditions along his route or to summon a tow-truck in an emergency.  The on-the-fly ‘trans-seat” system will be the most challenging.

The reservations will have to accommodate much shorter time periods than that now allowed by carsharing (the half-hour) and be able to share a seat request with a particular driver in a reliable way to ensure that a system can ‘match’ a driver heading along a known route with a person at a particular point wanting to be picked up along that route, with minimum wait (think of walking to a road way, and being able to hail a car going along the route you want to take, by just fiddling with the screen of your smart phone).

What will help with the implementation will be a push by governments to track all road movements – whether or not they are MASC vehicles or private –  for a number of reasons:  1) providing drivers with suggestions of routes based on actual road conditions, 2) assessing road-use taxes and environmental and road-use/congestion fees, based on vehicle type, time of day, kilometres traveled (especially as gas taxes prove to be an equity problem with the introduction of cars that don’t use gasoline or diesel, but do contribute to road wear and demand), 3) tracking vehicles reported stolen or suspected of being involved in clandestine activities, 4) travel data for better modeling for planning purposes of demand for infrastructure improvements, and 5) monitoring of road violations, either to assess traffic control strategy or to actually sending out citations.  The role of MASC entrepreneurs in the enforcement regime – whether they will pass on violations to the specific drivers, or will have to report the particular driver to enforcement officials – will have to be determined.  But as discussed early on, for better driver accountability, the operators will have their own interests to protect in the use of their fleets.  Such a system will eliminate the need for a fractured system of government-installed cameras and other sensors and display screens for each program, which is too costly, degrades the aesthetics of roadways, and causes drivers to take dangerous off-road ‘detours’ to avoid detection.  The digitally-tracked vehicle, despite appeals for personal privacy and autonomy, are a necessary advance.  Privacy on the road cannot be guaranteed for pedestrians, cyclists, or transit users, and shouldn’t be expected for the most profligate and dangerous road-users of all (the use of tinted glass, presumably to cut down heat build-up inside a car, also provides driver anonymity/privacy, something that works against driver accountability in public shared spaces).

Local municipalities would also like to add parking-fee collection, and perhaps, to avoid the environmental and traffic effects of ‘cruising’ for a parking space, actually assign parking spaces on request through communication with the driver using their mobile phone in a docking cradle on the dashboard (and using voice commands not requiring eyes or fingers – with more passengers, the driver could be relieved of this.)  They would also like to get the right to receive revenues from the new fees and taxes.  Gas taxes have been hoarded by senior levels of government, whereas most driving is done on local roads, the building and maintenance for which are mostly or totally dependent on local property taxes, which has now become a regressive system that lacks the proper fiscal feedback to influence more sustainable travel practices (based currently on property value vs. an area’s ‘service profile’ or even the older metric of road frontage).

When the seat-tracking element is added – as required by “trans-seat” – transit operators might also buy-in, so they can track use better, and avoid overcrowding and perhaps offer seat-reservation on certain services.  This would allow transit to end the flat-rate system that they can’t now avoid, which skews demand towards longer trips (think of the limited range of goods that a dollar store can offer, because of its one-price policy) .  This would give a break to non-commuters, mostly PED-CIVS who mainly make shorter trips and therefore now overpay for slower, less frequent off-peak service.  Even the courier business, which also charges mostly by flat rate systems, could charge more fairly by using calculated distances.  Another feature could be the requirement for drivers to enter their next destination, so the system can propose route suggestions, and know in advance of road loadings, better – and safer – than using GPS alone.

Cruzn’ Words with TED


The Ted Cruz slogan, TRUSTED, has stuck in my craw, partly because it is too slick and partly because its attempt to glue together two words cheats a bit, by using the second “T” twice.  Why not double the “S” instead (as in Truss-TED)?

I used my a trusty word reference (compiled and published by a now-deceased friend here in Ottawa — see below).  There are five pages of words that end with TED, but only a relatively few start with a complete, legitimate word.  Enjoy.
– CommitTED
– OmitTED
– TransmitTED
– TwitTED
– OutwitTED
– StrutTED
– GlutTED
– RegretTED
– FretTED
– PetTED
– CombatTED
– MolesTED
– WasTED
– SpurTED
– BlurTED
– StarTED
– HearTED
– TooTED
– BooTED
– StunTED
– PainTED
– PlanTED
– ScanTED
– SighTED
– WeighTED
– CoveTED
– CloseTED
– DieTED
– FaceTED
– OperaTED
– HydraTED
– BoaTED
– AnimaTED
– EjaculaTED
– ViolaTED
– ScintillaTED
– NauseaTED
[Thanks to: Fred G. Thompson (1993, Ottawa, Canada: Futurescan International, Inc.) Word Game Companion: 60,000 Words Sorted Backwards]

Lebreton Flats Development Comments


Submitted to landowner of the Flats, the National Capital Commission:

February 8, 2016

I am a 71-year-old resident of Ottawa since 1969, living mostly in the greater central area (now in Sandy Hill).  My wife and I were married in the chapel at the Dominican College on the escarpment at the end of Empress, and my first and second job in Ottawa were located in an NCC-owned row-house on Primrose.  I was a public consultation specialist with the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton for 22 years, worked in three positions in the automobile industry, and have been involved in community issues (mostly housing and transportation) for many years.  BTW, I attended the recent NCC “Lab” on the benefits and techniques of third-party blogging on urban issues.

Essentially, I find the process flawed.  You ask now for input on the submissions, even though I don’t remember being asked for input on the terms of reference that invited the corporate participants.  Also, there is no information on the reasons that two of the four consortia you selected did not follow through with a submission.  That leaves the variety for choosing a bit thin.  Finally, the public is being shown the physical elements of the submissions, but not the full submission, including the business case for their respective elements.  As land and transportation planning is a municipal/provincial responsibility, you are, here, acting more as a land-owner than as a public agency, one that is in the process of selling land to a private concern.

Lebreton Flats represents that last chance to add to the city/regional core elements that are missing, either because they were lost at a previous time (I remember the O’Keefe Brewery, one of the few buildings left in Lebreton Flats when I arrived in early 1969) or because their necessity has arisen only recently.

One of the things I have noted over the years is that Ottawa, like most cities, has lost many city-centre unique businesses and land-uses to the suburbs.  A very important one is active-care hospitals (I am aware of the presence of the General and Protestant hospitals in the eastern section of downtown in the early part of the twentieth century, gained through research for my Jane’s Walk, “Uptown Rideau: Main Street Interrupted).  The location of the hockey arena to Kanata, which partially replaces the older rink on O’Connor, is another example (which ironically occurred just as the suburbanizing trend in American cities was going into reverse).

In the RFP document, you should be commended for thorough consideration of seasonal variations, movement by foot (walking and cycling), and animation of public areas, indoor and outdoor.

Transportation in this document is too brief and the points to be earned too small.  And parking is not even mentioned, or at least its diminution in light of criterion: “maximizing leverage of the public transit investment.”

Urban Fabric: The Flats still are a bit of an island, cut off from Centretown by the escarpment, Gatineau by the parkway and river, Hintonburg by the rail line, and even Dalhousie to the south by Albert, which blogger Eric Darwin correctly refers to as nothing more than a “transportation sewer.”  Since the strongest elements are the radiating of traffic from the city centre, east-west, some thought should be given to reconnecting Wellington over the rail line through the flats. (The old Regional government tore down a viaduct that existed before).  Albert Street is not slated for rehabilitation: with active street-facing uses flanking both sides.

The residential component, I feel, is better handled by the Devcore proposal.  They put all the major attractions to the north, leaving the residential and local commercial development to by together – although this would further isolate Zibi from the Ontario side.

Ottawa Public Library: I don’t like LF as a site for this; rather something close to its current location.

Hospital: Ottawa’s hospitals are now spread out into suburbia.  I worked for several years with the Council on Aging Transportation Committee and its Hospital Parking subcommittee. Except for the Riverside – which has no patients staying over nights and weekends (and thus no demand for parking at those times) – the other hospitals have little transit service (1.5 routes to the TOH’s General campus and CHEO, 1.5 routes to the Montfort, 3 routes to the TOH’s Civic campus, and
2 to the Queensway-Carleton) – and coincidentally shamelessly charge city-centre parking rates, while neighbouring residential areas lobby for highly restrictive parking.  Having an active-care hospital, presumably a relocated Civic Campus, on the O-Train, would be ideal.  And it would provide parking demand that would complement the demand of the “attractions” (which are more oriented to evenings and weekends).

Parking: Another project our COA committee developed was to have a park’n’ride at Hurdman for non-commuters: tourists and others visiting the city centre and seniors needed parking to hospitals to avoid the parking charges.  The proposal called for parking charges to include a 4-5-hour transit pass, as a package.  This could also work in planned parking structures in Lebreton Flats.

Automobile Museum: This is almost amusing, it is so strange.  As a person who has lived without a car for 21 years and who co-founded Vrtucar, I tend to consider cars are being devices that belong only in museums.  But seriously, I was contacted by a man this summer who curated an auto museum in the Toronto area for “microcars” until the collection was sold to someone who moved it to North Carolina.  I still have his contact info.

How Will the Various Forms of “Green Energy” – Wind, Solar, Geo-thermal, and Wave – Affect the Earth as Each is Scaled Upwards?


I am no expert on energy; this is my first post or paper on it.  And, as a result it is a short one, really one that asks a question I am surprised I have not seen asked or answered in print before.

Each of these four forms have one thing in common: they tap a source of energy that is part of the earth’s natural system.  Because we all know that energy is never destroyed, it is only degraded and therefore less concentrated and usable.  That is bad.  Even though ‘harvesting’ each concentrates it a bit, when it is used it is degraded again, perhaps adding heat to the earth’s surface.

Right now, we all think of how each of these “renewable” forms of energy avoid generating greenhouse gases, but they also reduce the energy floating around on the earth, possibly reducing the earth’s temperature.  This would be a silver-lining secondary effect that I have never seen discussed with the general public.

1. Wind energy consists of sticking wind rotors into the air, with the effect of reducing wind speeds.

2. Solar energy means intercepting solar rays on their way to the earth’s surface, reducing its temperature.

3. Geo-thermal energy siphons off the heat trapped below the earth’s crust by circulating water deep into the ground, a kind of earth ‘radiator.’

4. Wave energy reduces the surface movements of the larger bodies of water.  (Tidal energy is a form of hydroelectricity, which I suspect is not a growth industry, at least in the fresh-water ecology).

And there may be other forms of energy we will yet ‘invent’ that will also tap another form of natural energy that is just ‘out there’ in a low-density format that can be ‘concentrated’ through a system of ‘harvesting’ it.

Right now, the amount of such energy being ‘harvested’ is so small its impacts on our thermal ecology is probably not able to be measured, but in scaling each process upwards to replace the planet’s prodigious appetite for energy, it probably will.

So, what is the answer?

Resentment and the 2015 Canadian Election


Christopher Hume’s column in the Toronto Star on Friday joined the plethora of pundit-led assessments of why Stephen Harper and his Conservatives fell out of government last Monday.

He spent most of his ink on the need of large municipalities to have federal dollars for infrastructure, but ended with the following about voter feelings: “The message of the federal election, we are told, was that Canadians are hungry — starved — for change. They’ve had it with the politics of resentment.” This is the first reference to resentment and to the idea that resentment deserves recognition as an important part of politics I have ever seen, despite Hume attributing it to unnamed others.  He concluded with a hint about what causes resentment: “They want the public’s business conducted in good faith, not bad blood.”

Yes, the Conservative Party under Harper is  mean.  Even though its basic tenets are still popular — more money left in taxpayers’ pockets, defend your friends from terrorists — the public has noticed how mean-spirited he is, starting with the ads mocking youngish Liberal leader Trudeau as being “not ready.”  There has also been the canceling of the Census’ mandatory long-form, so necessary to social scientists, policy analysts, and even marketers, along with muzzling government scientists across the board.  His niqab ban was spuriously based on an assumption that the few Muslim women that wore them were needing protection from demanding husbands and fathers.   His muzzling didn’t stop at government staff, but extended to his own backbenchers and, according to many reports, his ministers

Resentment is one of the emotions, but one that is different.  While it is confused with anger, the word contains an important clue as to its power — and its significance to politics.  “Resent” means to re-feel something.  It is an anger against how one is treated by another person or institution — or how others one cares about are treated.  And because the treatment is doled out by  a person or organization that has more power, it cannot be reversed simply by fighting back, because the treatment is probably simply get worse.  So it goes on and on.

Harper wasn’t this bad in how he treated others during his first two mandates; he had minority governments and restrained himself for what he really wanted: a majority.  Once he had that, the way he treated others turned darker, enough so that he became enemy-number-one at the first time sanctions could be considered: a federal election.

In news examples of resentment, I have come to realize that those who mistreat others often are, themselves, resentful of real or imagined mistreatments throughout their lives.  In Harper’s case, it is liberals and progressives, but also justices, media, and criminals.  It is seen as a matter of justice — an idea from the “old West” — that when one has, finally, the chance, one corrects injustice.  For the last four years, Harper was wearing a white hat, correcting age-old injustices he and fellow conservatives are resentful about.

He could, perhaps, have saved himself and the power he had amassed by utilizing the wisdom of PR people who suggest one can save one’s reputation by  saying you’re sorry and promising to change.  But that would have required self-awareness that Harper never evinced.  Instead, he is muttering, “enough with all you knaves” — including his own colleagues in government — and exiting abruptly and without allowing the media any question (or gloating, as his mind probably sees it).  Perhaps part of his blindness to this resentment — which, after all, most of us don’t identify as such in our lives — is his economics background: he so believes that voters want to maximize their economic well-being that he can’t see any role for emotion, especially for the most important one for voters: resentment.